Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This Is the Year That...

In no particular order, this is the year that…

1. I got to meet two authors I respect and love: Francesca Lia Block and Peter S. Beagle. I met Ms. Block at Wordstock, and she was just as down-to-earth, graceful, kind, and magical as I hoped she’d be. Author of Weetzie Bat and many other beloved favorites, getting to chat with her after her panel discussion jumpstarted my heart into hyper-drive mode for joy. She is in the top tier of writers who’ve most influenced me as a fellow writer, and as a spiritual being. She views life through a kaleidoscope so bright and beautiful. Mr. Beagle – author of The Last Unicorn – was kind, shy, and insightful. I attended a showing of The Last Unicorn film at The Hollywood Theatre, and fans had a chance to connect with the author afterwards. I’m currently reading his debut, A Fine & Private Place, about love amongst humans and ghosts in a graveyard; some of the passages are so exquisite, so insightful into human nature, that I find myself reading them over and over, my heart melting along the way.

2. Ollie, Mom’s beloved fox hound, passed away. The holiday season ushered in some twists and turns. On Christmas Eve, I left work at noon to meet up with family and friends to celebrate my birthday. Within five minutes of walking out the office door, I talked with Mom, who was in hysterics because Ollie was very sick and couldn’t walk. Ollie had long suffered from epilepsy, joint problems, and a possible brain lesion. We had to make a tough decision at the vet’s on Christmas Eve: should we put Ollie to sleep or see if he might pull through? While we ultimately laid Ollie to rest last Friday, we were able to embrace the true meaning of family and Christmas by spoiling him rotten for a couple days. We helped him eat and get outside to use the bathroom, and we cuddled with him and made nests for him in the living room. He was even able to get up and walk for a short burst of time here and there. On his last night, Mom snuggled up with him and slept by his side on the couch. Thank you so much to Doctor Kyle Mathis, and everyone else at Companion Pet Clinic: you are class acts who provided comfort, attentiveness, and sensitivity in just the right doses. I am so impressed with you all. Ollie, you are missed – and you live on in our hearts!

3. I reconnected with Stephanie Treece (now Stephanie Ebert), our old babysitter. I’ve long thought of Stephanie, her kindness and connection to our family. She’s always bopped into my thoughts throughout the years. She first came into our lives because of Spot the cat, my first pet. She’d posted an ad in the paper about a litter of kittens. After Mom reached out to her (“Nathan asked Santa for a kitten and he won’t take no for an answer!”), they started talking about the potential of her babysitting us on occasion. Turns out she became our Number One Go-To Gal for years: when my parents had date nights, when my parents needed an extra hand on vacations. And when my parents divorced and we moved from Lemont, Illinois up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, it hit all of so hard that we’d have to say goodbye to Stephanie. As happens too often in life, we slowly drifted away and lost touch over the years. But I could never shake my happy memories – Stephanie’s even the inspiration, or part of it anyway, for one of the main characters in the book I’m currently writing. I did some Google searching a few months ago, found her through her work’s website, and sent off a missive to her. She wrote me back within an hour! We’ve shared some lovely exchanges: catching up about the past 15-20 (!) years, revealing some of our inner grown-up selves to each other, sending pics, you name it. I am grateful to be back in touch. I hope our paths align in person someday; I’d love to visit her in Illinois and head to Fox’s Pizza for *the best pizza ever*, followed by ice cream at The Plush Horse. That would be a divine day.

4. Aaron and I drank beer one night on the roof of his Brooklyn, New York condominium and watched the trains (the “glowworms”) zigzag over the tracks. My brother told me that he loved watching the trains from that view, how they zoomed over the city, the millions of lights twinkling like stars at night. We talked about life, love, careers, family, dreams as the July night bathed us in warm breezes. Aaron loved to call these trains “glowworms,” and I was certainly reminded of gigantic fantasy creatures seeking sanctuary as they looped toward their destinations. I really cherish that memory.

5. Jordan and I saw MS MR in concert and had an A+ perfect night where everything went our way. Sometimes magic graces an experience and allows everything to go your way during a given event or situation. This was the case last May when my brother Jordan and I saw MS MR in concert at the Crystal Ballroom here in Portland. The weather was beyond perfect; our waitress at Deschutes Brewery was kind, hilarious, and enthusiastic; we had “princess parking” every time we sought out a spot; our conversation flowed effortlessly (as did the beer); and MS MR was in prime, fun, sexy form as they played song after song. Jordan and I danced, and jumped, and laughed. We were in total alignment with the experience, truly living in a moment in its purest crystalline form.

6. I attended my first Supernatural Tea Party with author Laura Whitcomb. I’ve long admired Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light and its companion, Under the Light. Her prose is almost poetic, laced with melancholy and haunted by spirits. Laura and I struck up an (email based) acquaintanceship a few years ago, when I reached out to her to tell her how much I love her work, and to ask her advice about querying agents. She took a look at my query letter and dispensed invaluable advice to me, for which I’ll be forever grateful. I met her for the first time this past October, when I attended a Halloween-themed event at a Barnes & Noble here in town. Laura, other authors, and fans gathered to share excerpts from their work; perform magic tricks (I was the apprentice for a card trick); and talk about their own experiences with ghosts & hauntings. (Tangent: I’ve since gotten to know author Chelsea Pitcher more, as she pointed out that night how much she loved my Veronica Mars Kickstarter T-shirt and was expecting hers in the mail. She’s a kindred spirits in many ways – she loves Tori Amos! – and we’ve been writing back and forth.) Laura Whitcomb ended up inviting me to her home last month for one of her Supernatural Tea Parties, a formal “high tea” affair, British style. The topic of the day was healing, in all its human, natural, New Age-y, emotional forms. I felt honored to be included in such a smart and lively conversation with these folks.

7. Gus and I went camping at Cape Disappointment. We ate ice cream on the beach at sunset, listened to the girl in the next campsite swing in her hammock and sing ABBA’s “Thank You for the Music”, and chatted with the lovely volunteer couple during the lighthouse tour. Oh, and we “befriended” a family of brave raccoons that kept invading our campsite; they got really close to us on occasion; and they stole our Peanut M&M’s!

8. While on vacation last March, Gus and I awoke in Nederland, Colorado to find ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm. We’d split our trip up between Nederland and Denver so we could spend time with both Gus’s family and one of his dearest friends, Lori; we planned our days in Nederland to coincide with the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. (You might be scratching your head, asking yourself, “What the heck’s that?” Take a peek here: http://frozendeadguydays.org/) The day of the festival, we rolled out of bed – well, rolled out of inflatable air mattress – and peeked out the window to see about three feet of snow that had “magically” appeared during the night! It coated the trees and porches, and had sprinkled onto the backs of Lori’s horses and pony as they grazed outside. It was a scene ripped from a postcard. Except for some of that biting, lashing snow when the wind decided to pick up. We headed into town, which felt like a ghost town. Almost everyone had stayed indoors. Many of the festival participants cancelled their events, including the Parade of Hearses, which I’d been looking forward to. We trudged from the coffee shop to the bookstore to the Carnival of Happiness (http://www.carouselofhappiness.org/) with barely anyone in sight. Despite some disappointment, there was also something mysterious and lovely and incredibly intimate about that day. Lori, her husband Paul, Gus, and I were able to have almost the whole town to ourselves. The town itself is already one of my favorites – picture Northern Exposure with more hippies. On this day, we got to embrace what nature had literally thrown at us, and I’ll always remember bundling up and braving the sideways snow, our feet crunching, our breath puffing.

9. My mother got settled into her cute new home at the base of Powell Butte. I’m so proud of Mom: she’s worked her butt off to decorate her home with her antiques and knickknacks, and this christened “Zenda” is a lovely next step in her Life Adventure. She had the backyard layered with stones, and she picked the perfect trees to grace the perimeter. My mother has a way of making her homes so cozy and inviting; you step inside and feel warmed and welcomed. While she may be farther outside of downtown Portland now, she’s halfway to the Columbia Gorge, and she’s nestled up against Powell Butte, which I didn’t know much about before she moved in. Both with my family and by myself, I’ve taken some terrific walks up there. This past August there was this one scorcher of a day where I got a bit lost on the trails, but I didn’t mind – I knew I’d find my way home. I came across a few deer; for better or worse, you can tell they’re used to people; one doe and I got so close that I just paused for maybe five minutes or so and watched her as she alternately grazed and watched me.

Okay, there we have it! Nine is such a spiritual number (three trinities combined), so I think I’ll stop there. There have been many other moments, both epic and minute, that have graced 2013. New friendships. Friends having babies. Breakthroughs with my writing. The list goes on. But I think I’ll sign off for now. I wish you all a lovely 2014. May it be filled with blessings, adventure, insights, healthy surprises, and steps in the right direction.

With gratitude,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hi Everybody,

Enjoy this lovely holiday song courtesy of Rosie Thomas. It's a cover of Cyndi Lauper. (Perfect.)


Warm Holiday Regards to All,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Passage of the Day

"It was a new thought, and Mr. Rebeck treasured new thoughts. He hadn't had too many lately, and he knew it was his fault. The cemetery wasn't conducive to new thoughts; the environment wasn't right. It was a place for counting over the old, stored thoughts, stroking them lovingly and carefully, as if they were fine glassware, wondering if they could be thought any other way, and knowing deeply and securely that this was was the best. So he examined the new thought closely but gingerly, stood close to it to get the details and then away from it for perspective; he stretched it, thinned it, patted it into different shapes, gradually molding it to fit the contours of his mind."

- From A Fine & Private Place, by Peter S. Beagle

*A special thanks to the two women at the showing of The Last Unicorn at The Hollywood Theatre, with Peter S. Beagle in attendance. These two gals highly recommended Mr. Beagle's debut!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas with Cooper

Having a fire in your fireplace at Christmas? Simply the best...except if you accidentally toss the Log Lady's "child" into it.

Thanks to my dear friend Karin Carlson passing this along, we can now all enjoy this interpretation of a classic:


I hope your holiday season is going well, and that Santa spoils you rotten! Have you been naughty or nice? Or are you versatile?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

"How many girls feel this way, ignored until we speak the words they have given us to speak? How many boys learn to converse through violence so as not to invoke the earthquakes their voices might bring? How many years have we sat, silent, waiting?"

- From Chelsea Pitcher's The S-Word

*Best if read while listening to Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes